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Open Access Research article

"Practical knowledge" and perceptions of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance among drugsellers in Tanzanian private drugstores

Nina Viberg1*, Willbrord Kalala2, Phare Mujinja3, Göran Tomson14 and Cecilia Stålsby Lundborg1

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Global Health (IHCAR), Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

2 School of Pharmacy, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

3 School of Public Health and Social Sciences, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

4 Medical Management Centre (MMC), Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2010, 10:270  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-10-270

Published: 16 September 2010

Abstract

Background

Studies indicate that antibiotics are sold against regulation and without prescription in private drugstores in rural Tanzania. The objective of the study was to explore and describe antibiotics sale and dispensing practices and link it to drugseller knowledge and perceptions of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance.

Methods

Exit customers of private drugstores in eight districts were interviewed about the drugstore encounter and drugs bought. Drugsellers filled in a questionnaire with closed- and open-ended questions about antibiotics and resistance. Data were analyzed using mixed quantitative and qualitative methods.

Results

Of 350 interviewed exit customers, 24% had bought antibiotics. Thirty percent had seen a health worker before coming and almost all of these had a prescription. Antibiotics were dispensed mainly for cough, stomachache, genital complaints and diarrhea but not for malaria or headache. Dispensed drugs were assessed as relevant for the symptoms or disease presented in 83% of all cases and 51% for antibiotics specifically. Non-prescribed drugs were assessed as more relevant than the prescribed. The knowledge level of the drugseller was ranked as high or very high by 75% of the respondents. Seventy-five drugsellers from three districts participated. Seventy-nine percent stated that diseases caused by bacteria can be treated with antibiotics but 24% of these also said that antibiotics can be used for treating viral disease. Most (85%) said that STI can be treated with antibiotics while 1% said the same about headache, 4% general weakness and 3% 'all diseases'. Seventy-two percent had heard of antibiotic resistance. When describing what an antibiotic is, the respondents used six different kinds of keywords. Descriptions of what antibiotic resistance is and how it occurs were quite rational from a biomedical point of view with some exceptions. They gave rise to five categories and one theme: Perceiving antibiotic resistance based on practical experience.

Conclusions

The drugsellers have considerable "practical knowledge" of antibiotics and a perception of antibiotic resistance based on practical experience. In the process of upgrading private drugstores and formalizing the sale of antibiotics from these outlets in resource-constrained settings, their "practical knowledge" as well as their perceptions must be taken into account in order to attain rational dispensing practices.